During the four years from 1935 to 1939 Munagla venkataramiah, a veteran devotee and the author of the work Paintakingly recorded the conversation that book place in the Old Hall between bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi and his devotees.
People from all faith and every walk of life came to sit at sir Bhagavan feet; whether ignorant or erudite, a simple peasant or royalty, they travelled from the far corners of the earth to place their doubts before him or just to sit his divine presence. His infinite compassion and unique insight ensured that none left his Ashram empty handed.
Their question covered every aspect of the spiritual search and every problem troubling the human mind; Maharshi answer gently led the questioner to the correct solution each question answered according to the questioners own level of spiritual development. All had their doubts dispelled their hearts suffuses with peach and their beings uplifted in his presence. This book is a truthful chronicle of such happenings.
Reflecting the warmth the humour and the deep spiritual atmosphere generated by the master presence this work is a treasure house for all who seek the highest truth. Sri Bhagavan's teaching self enquiry is the core of this work. However doctrinal questions from the various faiths, Hindu Christian, Buddhist, Theosophical, etc. have also been answered by the Maharashi. His explanations have revealed the common thread underlying all faith and the absolute unity of the spiritual quest irrespective of the diverse paths encountered on the journey to the highest Goal.
This is not a book to be lightly read and laid aside; it is bound to prove to be an unfailing, guide to increasing numbers of pilgrims to the Light Everlasting. Dc spite the fact that the great Sage of Arunachala taught for the 110st part through silence, h., did instruct through speech also, and that too, lucidly, without baffling and beclouding the minds of his listeners. One would wish that every word that he uttered had been preserved for poster!' '. But we have to be thankful for what little of the utterances ha- been put on record. Sri Ran ma's central teaching is: Self-inquiry, Instead of wanting to know ' this and that, seek to know the Self.
Ask 'Who am I?' instead of asking about a hundred other things. Self-inquiry ought to be the easiest of all tasks. But it seems to be the most difficult because we have become strangers to our Self. What one has to do is simple - to abide as the Self. This is the ultimate Truth. This is one's eternal, natural, inherent state. Sri Ramana's teachings as found in the "Talks" will bring hope to everyone. No one need think that he is beyond the pale of redemption.
Sri Bhagavan always stressed the one essential truth that was necessary for Liberation, that there is only one Self and nothing but the Self. Know that and everything else is known. This cannot be repeated too often. You are the Self, he tells us, nothing but the Self, anything else is just imagination, so BE the Self here and now. There is no need to run off to a forest or shut oneself in a room; carry on with your essential activities but free yourself from association with the doer of them. Self is the witness, you are That.
Example after example is given in these talks, in language to suit all tastes and mentalities. The reading of the book automatically drives one inward to the source. It is itself a sufficient Sadhana. Do not delude yourself, you are already That, there is nothing more to be obtained, only false association to be shed, limitation to be recognized as illusory.
What more is there to say, but to advise one and all to read this book and try and make it a part of themselves? Not one word to be passed over lightly, or one conversation to be dismissed as superfluous.
The "Talks", first published in three volumes, is now issued a handy one-volume edition. There is no doubt that the present edition will be received by aspirants all over the world with the same veneration and regard that the earlier edition elicited from them. This is not a book to be lightly read and laid aside; it is bound to prove to be an unfailing guide to increasing numbers of pilgrims to the Light Everlasting.
We cannot be too grateful to Sri Munagala S. Venkataramiah (now Swami Ramanananda Saraswati) for the record that he kept of the "Talks" covering a period of four years from 1935 to 1939. Those devotees who had the good fortune of seeing Bhagavan Ramana will, on reading these "Talks", become naturally reminiscent and recall with delight their own mental record of the words of the Master. Despite the fact that the great Sage of Arunachala taught for the most part through silence, he did instruct through speech also, and that too lucidly without baffling and beclouding the minds of his listeners. One would wish that every word that he uttered had been preserved for posterity. But we have to be thankful for what little of the utterances has been put on record. These "Talks" will be found to throw light on the "Writings" of the Master; and probably it is best to study them along with the "Writings", translations of which are available.
Sri Ramana's teachings were not given in general. In fact, the Sage had no use for "lectures" or "discourses". His words were primarily addressed to the particular aspirant who felt some difficulty in his spiritual path and sought to have it resolved. But, as the same difficulties arise in the quest after the Self and as the method of resolving them is the same, the Maharshi's replies to questions have the quality of universality.
It is not all that can ask the right questions or frame them properly. The "Talks" of the Guru, therefore, is not simply to answer to thepoint, as in an examination paper. He has often to get behind the words that constitute a question and correct the questioner even in the matter of questioning. And, when irrelevant and futile questions are asked, it is not his business to satisfy the idle curiosity of the questioner or confirm him in his delusions. Sri Ramana does not leave his interlocutor in the place where he was. As one of the devotees put it, "All our questions are from our standpoint, and Sri Bhagavan's replies are from his standpoint. The questions are not only answered, but are also undermined."
Various are the attitudes with which one may approach a saint. Sceptics and agnostics, theists and atheists, seekers of miracles and hunters of psychic phenomena - all used to go to the Maharshi. Each would naturally put questions that came uppermost to his or her mind; and the nature of the questions would depend on the attitude and interests of the person concerned. The glory of the Master lay in removing the attitudes and interests that were base and making the devotee long for realizing the Supreme Truth.
Visitors to the Asramam often used to put questions to Sri Ramana about occult powers and psychic phenomena. Is it not good to acquire occult powers such as telepathy? Is not the power to make one's body invisible a mark of mature wisdom. Can one read others' minds? The Master's reply to all such questions was' that the occult and the miraculous are not the spiritual. The supernormal powers are more hindrances than helps in the path to the Supreme Spirit. Some questioners were interested in matters relating to the dead: What happens to the dead? Can one see them? Here again, Sri Ramana taught that these problems were irrelevant and that no seeker after the truth should be concerned with them. An aristocratic and distinguished lady-visitor once enquired: 'Maharajji, can we see the dead?' The Master replied: 'Yes'. The lady asked: 'Can the yogis show them to us?' The Master: 'Yes, they may. But do not ask me to show them to you; for I cannot'. The lady: 'Do you see them?' The Master: 'Yes, in dreams.'
Sri Ramana's central teaching is: Self-inquiry. Instead of wanting to know this and that, seek to know the Self. Ask' Who am I?' instead of asking about a hundred other things. Self-inquiry ought to be the easiest of all tasks. But it seems to be the most difficult because we have become strangers to our Self. What one has to do is simple - to abide as the Self. This is the ultimate Truth. This is one's eternal, natural, inherent state. On account of ignorance we identify ourselves with the not-I. The most subtle of all these identifications is with the ego. Let us search for the root of the ego. Where from does this pseudo-I arise? At the end of this quest we shall find that the ego disappears letting the eternal Self shine. So the best discipline is the inquiry: 'Who am I?' This is the greatest japa. This is the true pranayama. The thought 'I am not the body' (naham) is exhalation (rechaka); the inquiry 'Who am I?' (koham) is inhalation (puraka); the realization 'I am He' (soham) is retention of breath (kumbhaka). The fruit of Self-inquiry is the realization that the Self is all, and that there is nothing else. For those who follow this method no other sadhana is necessary. But even those who adopt the discipline of devotion (bhakti) reach the same goal. If one surrenders one's ego to either the Guru or God, one realizes the Self.
Sri Ramana's teachings as found in the "Talks" will bring hope to everyone. No one need think that he is beyond the pale of redemption. An old American visitor once asked the Master, 'Maharshi, do you think we are bad boys'? The Master's characteristic reply was, 'Do not tell me so. But you need not think you are bad boys'. Anything that is bad in us will surely be removed, if only we listen to the Maharshi's wise words that are recorded in the present book.
And, may we read it with a view to preparing ourselves for understanding the Master's higher teaching which was through silence!
These 'Talks' cover a period of four years, 1935-1939, and were all recorded by Sri Munagala S. Venkataramiah (now Swami Ramanananda Saraswati), a very old disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Though a Telugu by birth he speaks English and Tamil fluently and is conversant with Sanskrit. These are necessary qualifications for one who wished to record the conversations of Sri Bhagavan with his various disciples and visitors.
The four years that are covered here, were the days when the Asramam reached the summit of its glory. Maharshi's health was on the whole good and the Hall where he sat was open day and night to welcome one and all. Visitors flocked there from every comer of the world, there was hardly a country that was not represented at one time or another. The war naturally interfered with this influx, though the number of Indian visitors steadily increased as time went on. But it was these conversations, many with Westerners, that were especially interesting; the modem tendency towards materialism and irreligion, on which the West often prides itself, met its match here. Sri Bhagavan glowed like the sun, and even those who did not understand him or agree with his words were fascinated and could not help but be elevated by his presence.
Though Sri Venkataramiah was fully qualified for the work, to follow Sri Bhagavan was no easy task when he once started to talk. , He had such a command of his subject that he was never at a loss for a word in whichever language he might happen to be speaking; so, few notes could be taken, the listeners being too busy trying not to lose a word of what was being said, added to which it was not always easy to understand. Sri Venkataramiah acted as interpreter for the many English-speaking people who flocked to the Asramam, as Sri Bhagavan was reluctant to say more than a few words in that language, though he knew it sufficiently well to read the English newspapers and magazines. But to act as interpreter was an even more difficult task than just recording; the flow of words was so steady that no interval was left in which their meaning could be conveyed to the ardent questioner. Often Sri Bhagavan had to be asked to wait while his words were conveyed to the anxious listener. So the difficulties of making this record can easily be imagined; only one who had sat for years at the feet of the Master and had thoroughly absorbed his philosophy and the way he expounded it, was competent for the task. Sri Venkataramiah, the ideal person for this, had luckily been found.
That the language used here is not always elegant is admitted, this was to be expected in the circumstances; doubtless it could have been corrected, but it has been left much as it was, as it was felt that a certain spontaneity that it now possesses would otherwise have been lost. Though the conversations were in various South Indian languages most of it was recorded in English, the rest in Tamil and Telugu, which passages have been translated for the purpose of this book. The completed notes were often shown to the questioners for verification, but the whole had the seal of approval of Sri Bhagavan himself, as the records were always shown to him for his approval or the necessary alteration after they had been entered in the notebook. Thus we may be sure that here we have the exact teaching of the Master, and reading them we once again sit at his feet in the Old Hall, drinking in every word that falls from his lips; enraptured by his smile, the movement of his delicate hands, and his actions; for he was a true artist, often acting the part of the story he was telling, the better to drive home his point.
Some may be inclined to criticize this book as monotonous, but this supposed monotony is deliberate, for some new point is always brought out however similar the talk may seem. Sri Bhagavan always stressed the one essential truth that was necessary for Liberation, that there is only one Self and nothing but the Self. Know that and everything else is known. This cannot be repeated too often.
Doubtless, an intellectual grasp of this fact sets one on the path, but the path once started, mental knowledge must then become actual experience. To know a thing absolutely, not just superficially, one must be that thing, otherwise knowledge is incomplete. As I pointed out, we are always nothing but the Self, but associating ourselves with the ignorance of limitation, with an ego, we forget the Seer and identify ourselves with the seen. But what can we do about it? The habit is so long-standing, birth after birth has been imagined and century after century has been fabricated by the mind. It has thus involved itself more and more in ignorance, that it now finds itself disinclined and, even if willing, almost unable to disentangle itself from the thralls of the play-world it has created.
You are the Self, he tells us, nothing but the Self, anything else is just imagination, so BE the Self here and now. There is no need to run off to a forest or shut oneself in a room; carry on with your essential activities but free yourself from association with the doer of them. Self is the witness, you are That. Example after example is given in these talks, in language to suit all tastes and mentalities. The reading of the book automatically drives one inward t-o the source: It is itself a sufficient sadhana. Do not delude yourself, you. are already That, there is nothing more to be obtained, only false association to be shed, limitation to be recognised as illusory.
His method of doing this is well-known: Self-Enquiry. Always and at all times seek for the source of the ego, the apparent actor, and on the attainment of that goal, he tells us, the ego will drop away of its own accord, -and nothing will be left but the all-blissful Self. But this is not the place to go into details of method; for those interested the necessary books can easily be obtained from Sri Ramanasramam. What more is there to say, but to advise one and all to read this book and try and make it a part of themselves? Not one word to be passed over lightly, or one conversation to be dismissed as superfluous. It is all pure gold. And here again we find the ever- living Sri Ramana Maharshi before us in person, teaching us in his own inimitable words for our benefit and delight.
It was found after preparing this book for the press, that the first part was not in chronological order, but rather than delay publication it was. decided not to alter the present arrangement as it makes absolutely no difference to the context. The dates are only included for reference, and as a guarantee of authenticity.
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